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Washington State’s Alex Grinch expected to become co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 4, 2018, 5:21 p.m.

WSU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch walks with his team during a timeout in the first half of the 2017 Holiday Bowl Thursday, December 28, 2017, at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, Calif. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
WSU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch walks with his team during a timeout in the first half of the 2017 Holiday Bowl Thursday, December 28, 2017, at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, Calif. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

More reports emerged Thursday about Alex Grinch’s reported departure from Washington State, and now there seems to be more clarity with regards to what role the Cougars’ defensive coordinator will occupy on Urban Meyer’s staff at Ohio State.

Suffice it to say, he won’t be low on the totem pole.

Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, ESPN’s Chris Low and others reported on Thursday that Grinch will assume the position of co-defensive coordinator – a role he’d presumably share with Greg Schiano, the current Buckeyes DC who last month was close to becoming the head coach at Tennessee before fan disapproval caused the Volunteers to back out of the deal.

Grinch, who grew up on the outskirts of Columbus in Grove City, Ohio, and was a Division III All-American at Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, will become the 10th assistant coach on Meyer’s staff, according to reports. Last year, the NCAA passed a bylaw allowing staffs to carry a 10th assistant. Many programs have already hired their 10th assistant, although those coaches aren’t permitted to start until Tuesday.

WSU could not comment on the report regarding Grinch and OSU media relations said, via E-mail, “We won’t be announcing anything with regard to a 10th assistant coach until I believe (Jan. 9) at the earliest.”

Prior to OSU’s appearance in the Cotton Bowl, Meyer said “there’s been some conversation,” about adding Grinch to the staff, “but nothing has been finalized.”

During WSU’s bowl practices in San Diego, Grinch dodged questions regarding OSU’s rumored interested, telling reporters he was dedicated to preparing the Cougars to play Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl.

Asked directly if he expected to be back in Pullman next season, Grinch replied, “Appreciate it, guys,” before walking out of the interview.

According to Feldman, Grinch turned down multiple schools offering more lucrative contracts to return to his home state and join an OSU program that’s gone 73-8 in six years under Meyer’s watch. Grinch earned a base salary of $600,000 in 2017 and was scheduled to make $625,000 at WSU in 2018.

A USA Today database listing the salaries of FBS assistant coaches showed that Schiano earned $100,000 more than Grinch in 2017. The OSU DC and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson ($650,000) are the only Buckeye assistants who made more than Grinch in 2017.

WSU dumped an additional $400,000 into its assistant coaching salary pool when it renewed Mike Leach’s contract. It was expected that the school would hand over a hefty sum of that to Grinch, who’s overhauled the Cougars’ once-unstable defense in his three years on the Palouse.

The year prior to Grinch’s arrival, WSU ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12 in most defensive categories. The Cougars, under ex-DC Mike Breske, were 10th in scoring defense (38.6 ppg allowed), ninth in total defense (442.2 ypg allowed) and 11th in passing defense (296.6 passing yards allowed).

Grinch’s transformation didn’t happen overnight, but after his third season in charge, WSU had jumped to fourth in scoring defense (25.8), second in total defense (323.3), fourth in rushing defense (152.4) and first in passing defense (170.9). Additionally, the Cougars were tied for first in turnovers gained (28) and were the only team in the conference with more than 100 tackles for loss.

Grinch arrived at WSU with defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa, who became one of the country’s top pass-rushers in 2017, compiling 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks en route to consensus All-American honors.

Grinch’s position is one of three Leach will have to fill this offseason. The WSU coach will employ a 10th assistant coach and likely has to hire for outside linebackers coach Roy Manning, who appears to be headed to UCLA to become the special teams coordinator.

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